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Japan thanks US for support amid rows with China, Russia

by Staff Writers
Yokohama, Japan (AFP) Nov 13, 2010
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan thanked US President Barack Obama Saturday for support over Tokyo's territorial spats with China and Russia and said the US presence is vital for Asia.

"I thanked him for continued US support while there are some issues over China and Russia," Kan told reporters after a meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

"I told him that the Japanese people as well as our neighbours recognised that the US military presence is all the more important for the peace and security of this region," Kan said as he stood alongside Obama.

The comments underline efforts to repair the Japan-US relationship, which reached its lowest ebb in years after a dispute over the fate of a controversial air base that helped topple Kan's predecessor.

The two countries have recommitted to retaining the base in Okinawa but intense local opposition remains and there are fears that November 28 elections for a new governor could stymie plans to relocate the base within the island.

"I told him we will make utmost efforts after the Okinawa gubernatorial election," Kan said, indicating Japan will try to push ahead with the planned relocation, which is already years overdue.

Obama called the US relationship with Japan "the foundation of our security and our prosperity" and said the two sides were determined to further deepen their economic relationship.

And he said Kan had accepted an invitation to visit the United States in the first half of next year.

Tokyo's feud with Beijing stems from the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain whose vessel collided with Japanese patrol boats in waters near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea in September.

Japan has also been at odds with Moscow since early this month when President Dmitry Medvedev made the first visit by a Russian leader to one of four Pacific islands at the heart of a separate territorial dispute.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated last month that the disputed Senkakus Islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, fall within the scope of the US-Japan security alliance.

China was infuriated, expressing its "serious concern and strong dissatisfaction" over the comments Clinton made after a meeting with her Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara.

The United States also publicly backed Japan over the Kuril Islands rift earlier this month, but called for negotiations to resolve the decades-old quarrel.

After calling for a permanent seat for India on the UN Security Council this week, Obama reaffirmed that Japan is also the kind of nation the United States would like to see at the pinnacle of power of a reformed world body.

"I look forward to a reformed Security Council that includes Japan as a permanent member," he said.

The White House meanwhile highlighted talks between the two sides on nuclear disarmament, security and non-proliferation, and said the partners were seeking joint projects ahead of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea.

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